Narcissus – Angela Tiatia Copy
Step One: Immerse yourself in the artwork
What did I just watch?
Good question. The cast of 40 people occupy a single platform in various acts of self-worship, ritual, joy, love, lust, complacency, despair and disregard in a single moment of shared time. Here, vulnerabilities, frustrations, flaws and strengths are shown as a collective effect.
This here is just a snippet – the actual work lasts 13 minutes.
What surprises you most about the behaviour of the people in this artwork? Is it the desperation of the throng of people or the lack of interest from the man at the front?
Step Two: Understanding the artwork
What’s with the name Narcissus?
Tiatia is deliberately referencing the Greek myth of Narcissus – a man who finds his own reflection so beautiful that he ends up dying. Tiatia’s work is referencing both the myth and the famous Renaissance artist Caravaggio’s depiction of Narcissus (below).
What is Tiatia trying to say?
Narcissus 2019 carries this enduring narrative into contemporary times, reflecting on global selfie culture fuelled through social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook etc, which are saturated with images of the self.
The blackness of the reflecting pool, while a reference to Caravaggio’s work, also brings to mind the “black mirror” of a smart phone (which is where the Netflix series gets its name).
What is striking about the piece is the juxtaposition of the ferocity of feeling expressed by the people in the background and the lifelessness of the man at the front. In this we can draw a number of parallels about relationships between social media “celebrities” and their fans as well as about relationships between ourselves.
Social media has exacerbated the constant centring of one’s own image, so much so that it is unremarkable, even unnoticeable.
“The constant scrolling on Instagram of selfie after selfie made me realise that a single screen can accommodate as many Narcissus figures as I wanted,” says Tiatia. “I wanted to flood the screen or room with more rather than less—to capture a sense of loss of control, or even chaos, many feel within our own global community.
“I also hoped that the cautionary tale of terminal self-obsession would be a reminder to think beyond ourselves in a time where the world needs to think more collectively than ever before, with movements such as Black Lives Matter and the climate emergency.”
Step Three: Draw your own conclusions
In the Masterclass you will be introducing your peers who looked at other works to Megafauna. As such, it’s important that you feel comfortable talking about Tiatia’s work.
Create a document and take notes on the following prompts (150 words per prompt):
- What interested you about Narcissus that made you choose to investigate it?
- What is depicted in the artwork Narcissus (how would you explain this to someone who hasn’t seen it)?
- Do you think Narcissus has an optimistic or pessimistic vision of the future? Do you share this view?